There is striking overlap between the spatial distribution of amyloid-β pathology in patients with Alzheimer's disease and the spatial distribution of high intrinsic functional connectivity in healthy persons. This overlap suggests a mechanistic link between amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity, and indeed there is evidence in patients for the detrimental effects of amyloid-β plaque accumulation on intrinsic connectivity in areas of high connectivity in heteromodal hubs, and particularly in the default mode network. However, the observed spatial extent of amyloid-β exceeds these tightly circumscribed areas, suggesting that previous studies may have underestimated the negative impact of amyloid-β on intrinsic connectivity. We hypothesized that the known positive baseline correlation between patterns of amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity may mask the larger extent of the negative effects of amyloid-β on connectivity. Crucially, a test of this hypothesis requires the within-patient comparison of intrinsic connectivity and amyloid-β distributions. Here we compared spatial patterns of amyloid-β-plaques (measured by Pittsburgh compound B positron emission tomography) and intrinsic functional connectivity (measured by resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging) in patients with prodromal Alzheimer's disease via spatial correlations in intrinsic networks covering fronto-parietal heteromodal cortices. At the global network level, we found that amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity patterns were positively correlated in the default mode and several fronto-parietal attention networks, confirming that amyloid-β aggregates in areas of high intrinsic connectivity on a within-network basis. Further, we saw an internetwork gradient of the magnitude of correlation that depended on network plaque-load. After accounting for this globally positive correlation, local amyloid-β-plaque concentration in regions of high connectivity co-varied negatively with intrinsic connectivity, indicating that amyloid-β pathology adversely reduces connectivity anywhere in an affected network as a function of local amyloid-β-plaque concentration. The local negative association between amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity was much more pronounced than conventional group comparisons of intrinsic connectivity would suggest. Our findings indicate that the negative impact of amyloid-β on intrinsic connectivity in heteromodal networks is underestimated by conventional analyses. Moreover, our results provide first within-patient evidence for correspondent patterns of amyloid-β and intrinsic connectivity, with the distribution of amyloid-β pathology following functional connectivity gradients within and across intrinsic networks.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; PiB-PET; amyloid-β plaques; intrinsic connectivity; resting-state functional MRI.
© The Author (2014). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Guarantors of Brain.